Monday, July 31, 2006

Fuel Costs Drive Coin Laundry into Sun-Energy Vanguard

One of Tom Benson's claims to fame, proclaimed in five-foot-high letters across his storefront, is that he owns the "WORLD'S LARGEST LAUNDROMAT" -- complete with 153 washers, 148 dryers and 15 flat-screen TVs.

But that's not the claim that excites advocates of renewable energy. It's that, perched atop the hangar-sized facility in this working class Chicago suburb, is one of the largest, most cost-effective solar systems in the country.

Scaling a ladder to the scorching roof one recent morning, the 61-year-old beamed with pride as he showed off the 36 10-by-4-foot panels that supply his 24-hour laundry with hot water.

Benson's boast about having the largest coin-operated laundry on Earth might be open to debate. At least one laundry in Denver claims to have a few more washers and dryers -- though Benson hastens to add that it seems to have less floor space than his.

What's not in doubt is that his $150,000 hot water system has become a darling of environmentalists and officials smitten with the solar promise, heralded as a prime example of how sun energy is practical, simple and cost-wise.

"The World's Largest Laundromat has served as a role model," said Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, a vocal solar advocate. "It's shown that solar can work in the Midwest climate, in the heartland."

To the chagrin of such advocates, however, fewer than 5 percent of the 40,000 coin-operated laundries nationwide use solar, according to estimates from the Coin Laundry Association, which represents nearly 3,000 companies in the $5 billion industry.

Benson first converted from natural gas to solar in 2001, two years after buying the laundry. The motivation, he says unapologetically, was pure dollars and cents.

His heating bills were climbing as high as $13,000 -- the equivalent of 25 percent of his total monthly revenue.

"There was just no way I could survive if that continued," he said. "I was looking at a very dire situation."

At a meeting where laundry owners vented about energy prices, someone mentioned solar. Illinois was offering grants to pay 50 percent of the cost of solar systems; Benson applied, got the grant and had a system up within months.

His bank, to his surprise, didn't hesitate to loan him the needed money.

"When I showed the numbers to my bank, they understood immediately," he recalled. "It was like: Boom, 'Here's the money. Go for it.'"

His dream of a profitable, energy-efficient laundry seemed to shatter on Aug. 29, 2004, when a spark from a dryer started an inferno that destroyed the premises.

But instead of cutting his $1.6 million in fire losses and quitting, Benson vowed to rebuild. To make the laundry more customer friendly, he fashioned a play area for kids and added an indoor aviary, featuring miniature doves.

He also upgraded the solar system -- again with state aid -- in time for the laundry's reopening early this year.

Benson calculates his $150,000 system saves him $25,000 annually and so should pay for itself in about five more years. To boot, he expects it to remain operational for at least 20.

"I figure that when they plant me in the ground, one of my sons will run this place," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if, 30 years from now, this laundromat and this solar system is still working."

The technology is so simple, requiring what Benson says is laughably low maintenance, he's perplexed why more businesses don't embrace it.

"None of my competitors within a several mile radius are doing this," he said. "It's a shame."

Since a laundry depends on hot water, its bottom line can be greatly affected by how energy efficient it is, said Michael Sokolowski of the Coin Laundry Association.

But the cost of solar systems dissuades many laundries, most of which are a fifth the size of Benson's and have annual revenues of less than $200,000, he said.

"Continuing increases in energy costs would get more to (install) it, and so would better efficiencies for solar systems -- especially systems made for smaller laundries," he said.

Benson, who has college degrees in philosophy and business administration, said he could have made his business even more environmentally friendly -- say, by adding biodegradable floor tiles. But, in scrutinizing the bottom line, he said that would have been too costly to justify.

"A lot of times the environmental stuff ... ends up costing you money," he said. "People aren't going to do it if it costs more."

His solar setup, though, has virtually no downsides, he argued.

"This happens to be one of these wonderful cases where the idea works on every level," he said.

His reliance on solar also engenders loyalty among his customers, the majority of whom are Hispanic and many of whom are poor.

Their reaction, he says, has tickled him more than anything.

"Many people here have come up to me and said, 'Thank you for helping the environment. Thank you for going solar,'" Benson said.

source: Associated Press

Farmers use as much pesticide with GM crops, US study finds

One of the major arguments in favour of growing GM crops has been undermined by a study showing that the benefits are short-lived because farmers quickly resort to spraying their fields with harmful pesticides.

Supporters of genetically modified crops claim the technique saves money and provides environmental benefits because farmers need to spray their fields fewer times with chemicals.

However, a detailed survey of 481 cotton growers in China found that, although they did use fewer pesticides in the first few years of adopting GM plants, after seven years they had to use just as much pesticide as they did with conventional crops.

The study found that after three years, the GM farmers had cut pesticide use by 70 per cent and were earning over a third more than conventional farmers.

But, by 2004, the GM cotton farmers were using just as much pesticide as their conventional counterparts and were spending far more because GM cotton seed is three times the price of conventional cotton seed.

The findings will undermine claims by the biotechnology industry that GM technology can boost food production without necessarily damaging the environment with pesticides.

Scientists from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, carried out the study which involved interviews with hundreds of Chinese farmers who had switched to cotton that had been genetically modified with a gene for a bacterial toxin.

The toxin – known as Bt – is secreted by the GM cotton plant and is highly effective at stopping the growth of bollworm, a major pest of the crop that can cause millions of pounds worth of damage.

Major cotton producers, the United States, China, India and Argentina, quickly adopted Bt cotton after it was introduced in 1996 by Monsanto, the American biotechnology company.

Today, more than a third of the global cultivation of cotton is accounted for by Bt cotton, ranging from 42.8 million hectares in the United States to 3.7 million hectares in China.

Continue reading: The Independent

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Gallions Park: London's First 'Zero Carbon' Development

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone today announced that he is seeking a development partner to work with him and the London Development Agency to bring to construct London's first zero carbon development at a three acre site at Gallions Park in the Albert Docks in the Thames Gateway.

The chosen partner will build 200 high quality new homes incorporating the best of modern construction and energy technology to ensure the development produces virtually zero carbon emissions.

Announcing the initiative Mayor Livingstone said the development "aims to demonstrate that 'zero carbon' developments can be commercially and financially viable in the UK."

"Energy use in buildings is responsible for the majority of London's carbon dioxide emissions. At Gallions Park I hope we will show how the highest environmental standards for new buildings can and must in future become the norm.’

The plans were welcomed by both Greenpeace and the London Assembly Greens. Stephen Tindale Executive Director of Greenpeace UK said "the Mayor is showing the way forward with this development."

Jenny Jones, Green Party Member of the London Assembly said she was "delighted that the Mayor is delivering one of the key commitments that he made to the Green Party Group on the London Assembly in this year's budget deal.

Zero carbon developments must become standard practice as soon as possible. I will press for this project to be the first of many more."

The London Development Agency has placed advertisements in UK and European press this week to begin the process of selecting a development partner.

EV rental: environmental vehicles for hire !

EV Rental Cars opened its doors in December 1998 as the first and only rental company in the United States to rent environmental vehicles to the public. Through a fleet of more than 350 all-environmental hybrid-electric vehicles, the company has prevented more than 100 tons of air pollution and passed on to its customers more than $1 million in fuel costs savings by acting environmentally.

High-tech hydrogen scooter designed to sell clean technology

An Industrial Design Engineering graduate from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands has designed and built a working prototype of a scooter, which can be powered by hydrogen. Crijn Bouman, who graduated for his Master's degree with credits, designed the Fhybrid scooter for the purpose of fighting pollution in inner-cities. Industrial designer Bouman: "the look and feel of the scooter are aimed at selling the clean technology inside".

The scooter has an electric in-wheel motor that derives its power from a (Li-)ion battery. This battery (primarily when the scooter is stationary) is charged by a compact fuel-cell system, which derives its energy from hydrogen (from a tank) and oxygen (from the air). The battery moreover stores up energy when the scooter brakes. Depending on the amount of traffic, this so-called regenerating braking system reduces the hydrogen consumption by 10-20 percent. To use the energy generated during breaking optimally, the scooter is front-wheel driven.

Apart from being environmentally friendly, the Fhybrid performs better than regular petrol powered scooters during test drives. The Fhybrid has a top speed of 65 km/ph, accelerates faster than regular scooters and can travel approximately 200 km on a full tank of hydrogen. An additional feature is the parking assistant. The electric engine can be very precisely controlled when travelling at low speeds, enabling the driver to park backwards or forwards without having to push the entire scooter into place.

The Fhybrid is designed to be hydrogen-powered, but for now the prototype is powered by batteries, with the help of a fuel-cell simulator that was specially designed for this project. "A special course and various permits are required to build a hydrogen-powered engine. It wasn't possible to achieve this during the time period of my graduation project", Crijn Bouman explained. "The faculty is now trying to assemble all the necessary means to fully develop the hydrogen-powered scooter."

The Fhybrid's complete drive system and energy management system were built by Epyon, a TU Delft spin-off company, of which Bouman is one of the founders, and in partnership with the Delft Design Institute.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Moscow to get Green Giant

Foster and Partners unveil world's tallest naturally ventilated building

Taller than any other building in Europe – Foster's new tower for CTT Group will be a striking new addition to the dynamic high-rise skyline of Moscow City. The mixed-use project - incorporating apartments, hotel, office and leisure space - will have an ‘energy cycle’ that will help promote sustainable design globally. At ground level, an inverted pyramid that houses retail space and a public ice-rink With retail and offices generating higher density use towards the base – residential, hotel and serviced apartments are located in the higher end of the building, there are a series of green skygardens that draw in natural ventilation and provide key circulation and social space. At the summit, a publicly accessible viewing deck with cafes and bars creates a magnetic new attraction for both visitors and residents of Moscow.


General Building Data
Height to top of building: 600m
Height to top occupied floor: 500m
Width of floor plates: 21m
Typical floor to floor height: 4.25m
Number of lifts: 101
Number of car parking spaces: 3680
Number of floors above ground: 118 floors

Structural System
Composite steel and concrete ‘fan’ column superstructure
Reinforced concrete core
21m clear span steel trusses with concrete on steel deck for office floors
Steel beams with intermediate columns with concrete on steel deck for the hotel, serviced apartments and residential floors

Tallest naturally ventilated tower in the world
Shallow 21m floor plates to maximise daylight and natural ventilation potential
Triple glazed high performance low energy façade
High-end comfort levels throughout
Photovoltaic cells feed electricity back into city grid, equivalent to lighting office space all year
Energy recycling within the vertical city reduces heating demand by 20%
Potential for thermopiles and river water cooling
Rain water and snow harvesting reduces fresh water demand for toilets by 30%
Waste recycling

Learn more on Foster & partners

Friday, July 28, 2006

Branson's next big bet: Virgin Fuels

Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, is worried about global warming, since his business interests cover six continents and deal with transportation through the air and on land. But Branson, being the prolific entrepreneur he is, does not see disaster; he sees opportunity to reinvent the fuel business. Branson is investing in traditional alternatives such as ethanol plants and solar power, but he is also developing a new ultra clean fuel that can power jets, cars and trucks. The fuel should work with cars, trucks and trains within a year, and within five years for commercial jet engines. Believe it or not, it will be called Virgin Fuel. While Branson is concerned about global warming and CO2 emissions, the ultimate motive of his ventures is to increase profit, and with oil prices above $70 a barrel, alternative fuels are making more business sense. The Virgin Group is set to invest about $1 billion in alternative fuels in the next four years. Read the complete article to get some insight in Branson's business ideas.


The Eco-Design Handbook

The Eco-Design Handbook offers the best-designed objects for every aspect of the home and office, including environmentally sound materials and building products. Some pieces are prototypes, some have already become classics; others have been discovered from far-away or unexpected places or difficult-to-find one-person studios.

The book contains an introduction that puts forward the history of green design and the latest eco-design strategies, and addresses the search for international standards. Two sections are devoted to detailed illustrated descriptions of furniture and objects for domestic living and products for the office or work-related activities, a third section is a catalogue of eco-materials, and the fourth part is a vast reference resource, including detailed listings of manufacturers, design studios and green organizations; a checklist of eco-design strategies; further reading; and a glossary of useful terms and concepts.

Easy-to-use information panels for each product and a cross-referencing system tie all the book’s sections together, while a comprehensive index enables the reader to find any product, designer or manufacturer instantly.

Buy The Eco-design Handbook: A Complete Sourcebook For Home And Office by Alastair Fuad-Luke (Thames & Hudson).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Industrial Design + Garbage = Jobs

With the support of three industrial designers and an architect, a group of informal garbage collectors in the Argentine capital has come together in a project to design and produce furniture and other objects out of waste materials.

The undertaking has given them the chance to have a decent job and pick up a skill, while keeping them off the streets.

"A really nice group has emerged," said Cristina Lescano, coordinator of the group of garbage pickers and one of the driving forces behind the initiative. "Now we are human beings. We come to work, we each have our tasks and responsibilities. It's a real job," she told IPS.

The idea of turning rubbish into crafts or industrial products is nothing new. Another group of garbage scavengers, for example, in conjunction with academics and professionals, set up a company that publishes hand-made books using recycled cardboard.

Lescano, a high school graduate, worked as an administrative employee for the Buenos Aires city government until she was laid off in 1997. With three children to support and no other options available to her, she became a "ciruja" or "cartonero", the local slang terms for those who make a meagre living "picking through bags of garbage," as she herself described.

The project, "Producción Ciruja", involves 10 informal garbage collectors who belong to the El Ceibo Cooperative of garbage pickers, which was created 12 years ago and has an officially recognised programme for the separation and classification of waste products.

In "Producción Ciruja", training and forging connections with the market are in the hands of industrial designers Ángeles Estrada, Victoria Díaz and Natalia Hojean, and architect Mercedes Frassia.

The group manufactures small tables and stools using corrugated cardboard, colourful placemates using plastic siphon bottle valves, and glasses, out of bottles.

The products decorate one of the rooms in the "El Apile" bar-restaurant, which belongs to Frassia, in the historic district of San Telmo, one of the city's oldest neighbourhoods.

"The aim is to add value to the recuperated object, improve living conditions for people who depend on garbage picking for a livelihood, while creating objects of beauty, which make the activity therapeutic and allow people to spend less time on the streets," Frassia explained to IPS.

The architect said that scavenged glass bottles, which fetch 10 cents of a peso each when sold as recyclable material, can be transformed into glasses that sell for one peso (30 cents of a dollar) -- 10 times more.

But besides earning them money, the workshop also allows the participants to gain a new skill.

"This is essential for the ‘old cirujas' - those who are over 45 and are in poor health because of all the time they have spent on the streets pushing a cart in the rain or in the cold of winter and heat of summer. These people can no longer ‘cirujear' (collect garbage), but they can work in the cooperative," added Frassia.

The programme began in April, and the first products were launched in June. The next stage is to obtain financing for six more months. The aim is for the project to become self-sustaining, and for it to no longer depend on the constant support of Frassia and the industrial designers who are currently involved.

The plan is to hook up the workshop with places where such products are sold, like fairs organised in the Metropolitan Centre of Design and the Museum of Latin American Art.

"This is a constantly evolving project. More people could join the workshop, other professionals interested in contributing their own ideas, and we could even incorporate design classes at the public university. But in the meantime, we need to guarantee a minimum flow of funds, in order to continue operating," said Frassia.

While they receive training, the garbage pickers need an income of 15 pesos a day (five dollars), which is roughly what they would be earning if they were spending all day (or night) on the street sorting through trash. To that is added the cost of the production materials (other than the recovered waste products).

"We know it'll be hard, but this is our life now, and we are going to stick with it," said Lescano.

"With or without money, we all agree that the project has to continue, and that it has to continue creating new jobs for people," Frassia said confidently.


Sweden aims for oil-free economy

Sweden says it aims to completely wean itself off oil within 15 years – without building new nuclear plants. The attempt is being planned by a committee of industrialists, academics, car manufacturers, farmers and others.

The country aims to replace all fossil fuels with renewables before climate change damages economies and growing oil scarcity leads to price rises.

According to the Guardian newspaper, a Swedish minister said oil dependency could be broken by 2020.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is worried that oil supplies are peaking, shortly to dwindle, and that high oil prices could cause global economic recession.

“Our dependency on oil should be broken by 2020,” said Mona Sahlin, Sweden’s minister of sustainable development.

“There shall always be better alternatives to oil, which means no house should need oil for heating, and no driver should need to turn solely to gasoline.”

The Scandinavian country, which was hard hit by oil price rises in the 1970s, now gets the majority of its electricity from nuclear and hydroelectric power. In 2003, 26% of all energy consumed came from renewables, compared with an EU average of 6%.

The oil committee is to report to parliament in several months. Swedish energy ministry officials said they expected the panel to recommend further development of biofuels derived from its substantial forests.

It was also expected to expand other renewable energies such as wind and wave power.


Reimaginations celebrates the beauty of wind

"Wind turbines have both aesthetic and symbolic power that translates well into artistic expression."

It's clean. It's friendly. And it's often down right gorgeous. REimaginations is dedicated to providing you with images, artwork and gifts that convey the beauty of renewable energy production.
REimaginations was started with the belief that wind turbines are beautiful. We wanted to share that belief through creating a venue for artists to show their interpretations of renewable energy. We plan on building a collection of images and artwork that is an inspiration dedicated entirely to renewable energy. We are starting with a focus on wind energy. Wind energy is under attack across the country by those that see wind turbines as ugly. We find them to be beautiful expressions of the wind.

"It's no accident that there is a long tradition of wind energy in artworks," said Sakura Emerine, Education Manager at AWEA. "Wind energy is an elegant blend of form and function, and artists have worked to capture the power of this combination for hundreds of years in everything from sketches to paintings to photographs to sculptures."

more on the online exhibit

Dow Commits to Invest in Clean Water Solutions

Speaking at the United Nations before an audience of international leaders from the policy, business, and NGO communities, Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW), today committed the Company’s resources to developing new technologies and solutions for creating safer, more sustainable water supplies for communities around the world.

Joined by dignitaries including the Mark Malloch Brown, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, members of the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Foundation (UNF), Liveris emphasized the urgency of addressing the needs of the 1.2 billion people worldwide whose lives are threatened because of inadequate or unhealthy water supplies.

“Water is the single most important chemical compound for the preservation and flourishing of human life,” Liveris said. “And yet today, more than a billion people are in peril every day because they do not have enough water or the water they have is unhealthy. Lack of clean water is the single largest cause of disease in the world and more than 4,500 children die each day because of it.”

As part of Dow’s 2015 Sustainability Goals, Liveris pledged the Company would reinforce its commitment to technologies designed to meet the needs of the 21st century for water development, purification and transmission technologies, including:

  • New solutions for economically viable desalination;

  • New and improved chemistry and polymers for removing specific impurities in water;

  • Innovative materials for leak-proof water piping that can dramatically increase the efficiency of community water systems;

  • New, lower-cost technologies and business models for the management of municipal water supplies.

“As a large company, we take our philanthropic mission very seriously, but we approach the challenge of developing water resources not in a spirit of charity but as a business, in a spirit of enterprise,” Liveris said. “Where we create the most leverage, the most value, the most power to solve this problem is in the laboratory and in the marketplace.”

Blue Planet Run: A Partnership for Global Awareness

Liveris also outlined a new partnership between Dow and the Blue Planet Run Foundation, a U.S.-based non-profit organization committed to sustainable water solutions. The foundation will raise awareness of and funds for clean water projects worldwide through the inauguration of the Blue Planet Run®, the first-ever global endurance run around the world, sponsored by Dow.

Over the course of 100 days, beginning in June 2007, a team of Blue Planet Run athletes will circumnavigate the globe, running 24 hours a day.

According to Blue Planet Run Foundation founder Jin Zidell, the partnership with Dow has created a platform for expanding the reach and influence of the foundation within the community of major corporations that are actively working to achieve sustainability goals.

“The partnership between the Blue Planet Run Foundation and Dow is truly a cooperative effort to raise awareness for this important cause,” said Zidell. By working together, we are creating a movement to celebrate life and make a real difference in the lives of millions of most disadvantaged people around the world.”

“Blue Planet Run creates a focal point for rallying individuals, businesses and governments around the problem of clean water access,” Liveris said. “It is an important piece of our educational and philanthropic commitment to this issue and consistent with the compassionate, dedicated, generous spirit of the 42,000 men and women of The Dow Chemical Company.”

Summary of Dow’s 2015 Sustainability Goals

Dow’s 2015 commitments seek to create a positive impact beyond the footprint of the Company itself. They include the goal of achieving at least three breakthrough solutions in four critical areas affecting human life today: affordable and adequate food supply; safe and affordable housing; improved personal health and safety; and the sustainable water supply efforts announced today.

As part of its 2015 goals, Dow has also committed to improving the Company’s energy efficiency, developing alternative sources of energy and addressing the challenge of global climate change that has been driven by the consumption of fossil fuels.

A full summary of Dow’s 2015 Sustainability Goals are available at

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Propel Biofuels

Propel Biofuels is a privately-held biodiesel distribution and consulting company committed to serving our customers with the highest-quality biodiesel fuel and professional support. As a company, Propel believes:
  • In contributing to economy by reducing dependence on imported oil, improving local communities, and acting responsibly toward environment.
  • That consumers deserve a choice and consumer-driven demand is the key to solving energy crisis.
  • Total quality and support are needed for success, and Propel provides innovation and availability to markets in order to rapidly increase biodiesel consumption.

Biodiesel offers unprecedented opportunities to affect positive change for both businesses and individuals. Propel Biofuels has assembled a team of experts to supply a disparate and complex industry with the leadership required to actualize these opportunities.

Propel Biofuel's site

Northern Ireland Proposes Mandatory Solar or Wind on All New Buildings

The Government is proposing changes to the Building Regulations which will make the use of renewable energy compulsory in all new builds from 2008, Secretary of State Peter Hain MP said today.

The changes, which all apply to all new homes, company and public buildings, will make micro-generation, such as solar panels to heat hot water, solar photo voltaic panels on roofs to generate electricity or small wind turbines for houses, mandatory in under two years.

Launching an £8 million renewable energy Household Programme, Peter Hain said that Northern Ireland is leading the rest of the United Kingdom in green energy.

Some 4,000 households will benefit under the Household Programme to install renewable energy systems in their home.

Families on low incomes and in social housing are also set to benefit from renewable energy. The Department of Social Development is providing 100 per cent grant assistance to install solar hot water systems in 500 homes in private fuel poor vulnerable households.

In the public sector, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive is to install 600 solar water panels in its properties.

Peter Hain said: “Northern Ireland is leading the rest of the UK in renewable energy and the Government is introducing initiatives to stimulate the use of green energy across the board.

“The Household Programme is another important milestone in the promotion of renewable energy in Northern Ireland. It puts in place an initiative that will stimulate renewable energy at household level and effectively initiate a programme of micro-generation development for the future.

“I am fully committed to the use of renewable energy and I know how effective it can be. In my home in Wales, I have installed PV panels on my roof and this has resulted in my energy bill being halved.

“As a Government, we are also moving forward in changes to the building regulations to help and encourage greater use of renewable energy.

“Changes will come into effect in November that will result in a 40 per cent reduction in emission and set onerous targets to encourage the use of renewables.

“Planned amendments to the Building Regulations will make micro-generation mandatory in new builds from April 2008. This comprehensive range of measures puts Northern Ireland in a good position to develop its renewable energy options.”

The Household Programme which was launched today in Comber is part of the Environment & Renewable Energy Fund announced by Peter Hain in February.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Wind energy: Texas ahead of California

As the U.S. wind energy industry stayed on pace for another record year, Texas for the first time supplanted historic leader California as the top state in cumulative wind power capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Second Quarter Market Report.

The report also shows that U.S. developers brought online a capacity total of 822 megawatts (MW) in the first half of the year. With the strong growth, the U.S.’s cumulative wind power capacity surged to 9,971 MW—within close striking distance of the 10-gigawatt (10,000-MW) milestone. (For a listing of projects completed and under construction, see below.)

Texas ’s cumulative total now stands at 2,370 MW of capacity—enough to power over 600,000 average American homes—followed by California’s 2,323 MW. Texas edged ahead of California by adding a total of 375 MW, about half of the total amount installed in the country since the beginning of the year.

It’s a historic moment. California has led the nation in installed wind capacity uninterruptedly for nearly 25 years, ever since the first wind farms were built there in late 1981, and at one time the Golden State was host to more than 80 percent of the wind capacity in the entire world. However, energy and electricity prices tanked during the global oil glut of the 1980s, putting California’s wind power boom on hold.

But Texas by no means has been the lone state busy developing wind power projects. In fact, while Texas took the capacity crown from the perennial state leader, development activity in California has not exactly been dormant, with PPM Energy’s (PPM) 150-MW Shiloh Wind Project in Solano County and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s 24-MW project near Rio Vista coming online earlier in the year.

Developers continue their steady advance in project activity while the industry confronts a series of inevitable challenges, one being the interplay between wind turbines and military radar. At AWEA’s annual conference, the WINDPOWER 2006 Conference & Exhibition in June, industry players gathered for a siting panel on military issues, an event that brought together stakeholders from all sides of the radar issue. At the session Lt. Col. William Crowe, chief of airspace for the U.S. Air Force, offered to serve as a point of contact for the industry as the various parties work through the challenges and concerns.

read more: AWEA quarterly market report

ENV bike: gold winner at America’s IDEA Awards

Intelligent Energy’s ENV, the world’s first purpose-built hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle, designed by leading British designers Seymourpowell, has won a coveted Gold Award at America’s leading product design awards – The IDEA Awards – presented by the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) and sponsored by BusinessWeek.

The ENV began its life as a fuel cell technology demonstrator and was launched to the world in March 2005.

Juror Alistair Hamilton (IDSA, VP, Corporate Innovation and Design, Symbol Technologies Inc) commented on the bike for BusinessWeek: ‘It was designed to sell the new technology. People will understand that it is viable and use it.’

A jury of eighteen leading thinkers in the design world spent many days previewing entries online and two days of intense, face-to-face evaluation and debate on the IDEA awards, one of the world’s most prestigious design competitions. Judging criteria for each entry focused on five areas of industrial design excellence: design innovation, benefit to the user, benefit to the client/business, ecological responsibility, and appropriate aesthetics and appeal.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Pioneering Technology Lab Now Puts Energy Into Solar

Promising approach may make sun-fed power competitive with fossil fuels for the first time, experts say

Over the years, the Palo Alto Research Center has developed numerous electricity-gobbling innovations.

Now, the storied lab that gave the world laser printing and graphical user interfaces is trying to harness the sun to power its inventions.

The Xerox Corp. subsidiary known as PARC has produced superefficient solar systems that experts say could make photovoltaic power -- sunlight converted directly into electricity -- available on a large scale at prices competitive with fossil fuels for the first time. PARC's technology is one of several promising approaches in the field.

"Solar is growing at 30 percent annually," said analyst Ron Pernick of Clean Edge Inc., a research organization that specializes in alternative energy technology.

Comparing the expansion to the best years of the personal-computer industry, Pernick forecasts that solar power will be a $51 billion global business in 2015, up from $11.2 billion last year.

The research at PARC is part of an eco-friendly technology trend that draws on the materials and know-how that built computer microprocessors and other high-tech staples.

PARC's efforts dovetail with Silicon Valley's push into "clean tech," including conservation and renewable energy. Reusable paper is another of PARC's development projects. The California Clean Tech Open -- sponsored by dozens of companies, venture capital firms, universities and other groups -- recently received 155 competing business concepts.

In an era of stratospheric oil prices, investors are beginning to see solar as the next big thing, despite its embryonic state. Many industry watchers expect to see large rooftop collectors for powering businesses, and solar farms that will approach the size of major power plants.

"The electricity market is as big as the sky," said Erik Straser of Mohr Davidow Ventures in Menlo Park, who has invested in emerging solar companies.

That hopefulness stems from dramatic technology changes. For decades, solar power was dominated by thermal systems that heat water for bathing or power small turbines to create electricity. Photovoltaic technology -- the combination of light and electricity -- gradually is replacing thermal.

At the core of photovoltaic cells are semiconductor materials such as silicon. Solar rays knock electrons loose from silicon atoms; those electrons are drawn off to create a current. Solar arrays combine many cells.

The first generation of photovoltaic technology was based on large, heavy collectors -- costly, inefficient systems that converted only 10 percent to 15 percent of solar rays to power. The rest reflected away or diffused as waste heat.

Recently, a handful of companies have developed systems that use mirrors or lenses to concentrate the sun's rays as much as 500 times and increase efficiency to as much as 26 percent, with projections up to 50 percent. Higher efficiency means cheaper power.

Several such "concentrating photovoltaic" schemes have been devised.

PARC's concentrating technology was developed with SolFocus, a start-up being incubated inside PARC. The first-generation system comprises grids of solar collectors about 8 inches thick. Metal cones and optical systems concentrate sunlight on a 1-square-centimeter solar chip.

The second-generation system shrinks the collectors 90 percent and makes them about half an inch thick, creating a honeycomb of precision-molded glass coated with mirrors. The newer technology uses chips just 1 millimeter square made from layers of germanium and silicon. The layers absorb different parts of the solar spectrum to increase efficiency.

Their small size would make the collectors more economical and easier to mount on the rooftops of commercial buildings, such as big-box retailers in sunny climates. Last year, SolFocus' entry beat more than 100 competing designs to win the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Growth Forum award.

PARC estimates that the new system will easily compete with fossil fuels at today's prices, although it won't be ready for commercial use for a few years.


• Read more about PARC's Clean Tech research
• Read more about Concentrator PV (CPV)

Smart car goes electric

DaimlerChrysler has announced a new version of the Smart car that is 100% electric. You just plug it in to charge it. It’s even quicker than the regular petrol version at city speeds. It’s being tested in Europe first.

The trial will take place in the UK and 200 units will be made available on lease to corporate customers starting in November 2006. Of course the smart is an ideal basis for an electric car – it is small and predominantly urban, so a limited range is less of an issue than with larger models. The electric motor produces 30 KW (41 bhp), enough for a top speed of 110km/h and a range of 117 km.

Smart also says it will work with producers of green energy – important as an electric car will not help much if it uses electricity produced by burning fossil fuels

Wind Turbines For Kirklees Council Building

Kirklees Council will soon be the first local authority in the country to install wind turbines on the roof of council buildings. Cllr Martyn Bolt, the council's Cabinet member for Environment and Transportation, said: "The council is taking direct action to combat climate change - and save money - with two wind turbines soon be installed on the roof of Civic Centre III in Huddersfield town centre.

"At present the civic centre building has a large array of panels generating electricity and another set of solar energy collectors heating water. The wind turbines are to be installed on the remaining area of the roof as the final phase of a high profile European-funded project called 'ZEN', which means Zero Emissions Neighbourhoods.

"This is an excellent example of using technology not just to protect the climate but also to reduce the council's fuel bills. The council is installing renewable energy across the district in schools, homes and civic buildings. This reduces energy costs and harmful greenhouse gas emissions, benefiting Kirklees residents and people everywhere".

The ZEN project aims to develop and promote the idea of "zero emission neighbourhoods", which are neighbourhoods with zero or negligible climate change gas emissions. In such neighbourhoods, reductions in climate change gas emissions can be achieved through the introduction of sustainable energy measures, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy generation. Each neighbourhood will consider how this could best be achieved whilst examining the barriers that might prevent it occurring.

Within Kirklees there is a large potential resource of renewable energy derived from the wind, the sun, plants and crops and certain wastes as well as from the existing water networks and the projects seeks to examine how this potential could be realised.

Kirklees council has recently gained national recognition for its pioneering work in combating climate change. Last month the council received a prestigious Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy and a cheque for £15,000 at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Green Building Press

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Toyota's Camry Hybrid is a Hit

"In its second full month on the market, the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid is a hit. According to Toyota's July 3 press release, the American-made Camry Hybrid sold 4,268 units in June. According to my own calculcations, it's the first time any hybrid other than the Prius has sold more than 3500 units per month in 2006. Camry hybrid sales in June helped Toyota extend its market share dominance of the hybrid sector to a whopping 78%.

Here's a rundown of the domestic June sales figures for hybrid cars:
Toyota Prius: 9,696
Toyota Camry: 4,268
Toyota Highlander: 2,705
Honda Civic: 2,601
Ford Escape + Mercury Mariner: 1,884
Lexus RX 400h: 1,190
Honda Accord: 396
Lexus GS 450h: 231
Honda Insight: 77

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Glidehouse modular and sustainable homes by MKD

The Glidehouse™ modular home is designed to collaborate with nature. The design is based on basic sustainable—green—design principles. The house is designed as a series of shallow buildings to allow maximum natural ventilation. Through the use of the gliding glass wall and the opposite operable clerestory windows above the storage bar, breezes are maximized. Indirect lighting minimizes the need for electric lighting.

Depending on the location, the house can either have solar panels, a geothermal, or a wind generator system, or a hybrid system. The exterior walls are made of maintenance-free Cor-Ten steel, Galvalume, Hardi panels or cedar planks to blend in with the context.

Through the implementation of sustainable design and solar, geothermal, or wind generator equipment, the Glidehouse™ modular home provides owners with reduced, if not eliminated, utility bills. The Glidehouse™ could be situated in a rural area, and through the use of solar, geothermal or wind generating equipment, the Glidehouse™ would not need to be connected to electricity lines, therefore reducing the long term cost of ownership and widening the range of potential building sites.

A modular home also affords construction efficiencies, virtually eliminating waste materials that are normally associated with new home building. Construction impact on the new home site is also minimized through factory-based modular home construction.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Google to tackle climate change

Wired has an interview with Larry Brilliant, the new head of the Google Foundation. He’s the man in charge of spending $1,000,000,000 plus one percent of the equity, 1 percent of the profits, and 1 percent of the people of Google.

For now, the foundation has a triple mandate: In no particular order, global public heath, global poverty and the climate crisis. Mr. Brilliant says: “I’m going to approach this the way a venture capitalist would – map out the industry to see what the gaps are. You fund an initiative, learn what works, and ask, ‘Will it scale?’ [...] Many of the issues we face in dealing with rapid climate change are well suited to an engineering mind.”

Read the Wired article

Hit to the green by golfing with eco-friendly tees

Baseball has its horsehide, football has its pigskin and now golf is going “down on the farm” with tees made from corn.

More than 15 million Eco Tees were produced during the past 12 months in Starke County’s county seat, located in the middle of northwest Indiana’s cornbelt.

Eco Golf, a subsidiary of Hoosier Custom Plastics LLC, is under the same Knox Industrial Park roof as its parent company, co-owned by Gordon Schenk of Plymouth, Mike Tetzloff of Winamac and Craig Dulworth of Walkerton.

The biodegradable golf tees are manufactured using the traditional injection molding process where a pellatized material – in this case a corn starch mixture – is heated to liquid form and injected into a golf tee-shaped cavity in a tool.

The injection molding press produces up to 10,000 tees per hour, the tees rolling off a conveyor belt to be bagged or boxed and delivered literally worldwide.

“We’ve shipped 1.2 million Eco Tees to Disney resorts during the past year,” Gordon Schenk said. “They’re our biggest customer to date.”

Bulk pricing starts at 1.25 cents per tee and increases depending on color, custom imprinting, packaging and tee size.

Schenk and his partners acquired the Eco Tee technology from a Columbus entrepreneur in 2005 after starting production for him in Knox in 2004.

“In addition to being biodegradable, Eco Tees last longer than traditional wood tees,” Schenk said.

Robert Redford is to launch SUNDANCE CHANNEL GREEN

Sundance founder, Robert Redford announced today that Sundance Channel will launch SUNDANCE CHANNEL GREEN, a weekly primetime destination block focusing on environmental topics, in early 2007.

Consisting of three hours of hosted programming, SUNDANCE CHANNEL GREEN will present original series and documentary premieres about the earth's ecology and concepts of "green" living that balance human needs with responsible environmental stewardship.
With SUNDANCE CHANNEL GREEN, Sundance Channel becomes the first television network in the United States to establish a significant, regularly-scheduled programming destination dedicated entirely to the environment.

SUNDANCE CHANNEL GREEN will consist of the following program elements:
1. Original Series: Change Agents: a high energy, story and character-driven documentary series about the people and projects that are on the front lines of environmental sustainability and innovation.
2. Interstitial Series: Sundance Channel will launch several interstitial series that will highlight a range of environmental issues and offer viewers innovative suggestions to effect change in their own lives.
3. Documentaries: The block will feature compelling feature-length documentary premieres and news specials on environmental subjects.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A book to green up your kitchen !

Here is a book from Jennifer Roberts (Gibbs Smith, $29.95) called Good Green Kitchens: The Ultimate Resource for Creating a Beautiful, Healthy, Eco-Friendly Kitchen. The book will give you in-depth tips to get the greenest kitchen around. It covers every green topic you need for your kitchen– right from lighting, air quality, floors, storage, counters, energy-efficiency, green cooking and eating tips that will make your kitchen every environmentalist’s pride.

To give a clearer picture, she has also illustrated 10 completed green kitchens that are bound to inspire you. If you are keen on getting your own green kitchen, and find the information provided insufficient you will be delighted to know that she has also provided huge bibliography and glossary.

Good Green Kitchens is a must-have—whether taking small steps to a green kitchen, or planning a thorough remodel. This newest book from green living advocate, Jennifer Roberts, is loaded with inspiration and information for creating a dream green kitchen.

Buy on Amazon

Solar power to be mainstream energy source by 2025

Photovoltaics, now a billion dollar industry, is experiencing staggering growth as concerns over fuel supplies and carbon emissions have encouraged environmentalists and governments to subsidise the cost of solar energy.

As a form of energy, solar power is currently at least four times too expensive and it will only become truly mainstream when its dollar to Watt ratio is comparable to other energy sources.

The timing will depend on levels of research investment, of national, international and multi-national co-operation and the rate of increase in the cost of non-renewable energy. However, it seems inevitable that by 2025 photovoltaics will be a fully cost competitive alternative to gas, coal, nuclear or any other renewable supply.

Photovoltaic production is currently based on “first generation” solar cells that rely upon expensive bulk multi-crystalline or single crystal semiconductors. Although, these structures are reliable, half the cost of current devices is as a result of the use of silicon wafers.

As half the cost of "first generation" photovoltaics is that of the 200-250 micron thick silicon wafer, a cheaper "second generation" of solar cells could use cheap silicon thin-films deposited onto glass.

Then "third generation" devices could use new technologies to produce high-efficiency devices. The prospects for advances in the manufacture of high efficiency devices have been boosted in recent years by tremendous advances outside the photovoltaics industry. Nanotechnologies, photonics, optical metamaterials, plasmonics and semiconductor polymer sciences all offer the prospect of cost-effective new technologies that can be applied to photovoltaics.

Within the next 20 years, it is very reasonable to expect that cost reductions, a move to second generation silicon technologies and implementation of some new technologies will lead to truly cost-competitive solar energy.’

by Dr Darren Bagnall, from the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics & Computer Science


Corn + Water + Paper = a Revolutionary Eco-Friendly Coffee Cup

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and International Paper today launched the only all-natural paper hot beverage cup available in consumer outlets nationwide. In a conventional cup, the inner surface is lined with a petroleum-based plastic to prevent leaking. The cup unveiled today is lined with a bio-plastic made from a renewable resource--corn. After use, and under the proper conditions, it will break down into water, carbon dioxide and organic matter.

"For 25 years, we've said that we craft our coffee with care. Now our cups are crafted just as carefully," said T.J. Whalen, vice president of marketing for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. "These cups, made from fully renewable resources, are part of our corporate commitment to environmental stewardship."

"Consumers will notice no difference as they enjoy coffee with this cup--but the environment will," said Austin Lance, VP/GM Foodservice Business of International Paper. "It's the first in what will be a series of ecotainer(TM) products that reflect our company's concern for the environmental footprint we leave behind."

The two companies have been working on the revolutionary cup for more than a year, including a blind market trial of nearly five million cups. Not only does the cup feature an eco-friendly liner, but the material used to create the lining is manufactured in a greenhouse-gas-neutral environment.

"Converting to this cup will mean that we consume nearly a quarter of a million pounds less of non-renewable petrochemical materials every year," said GMCR's Paul Comey, VP, Environmental Affairs. "That's why we think this is such a revolutionary eco-friendly cup."


So long, paraffin: ethanol fuel in South Africa

On a pavement in Joubert Park in Joburg (how Johannesburg is commonly called), shoppers cluster around Tumelo Ramolefi’s stall exclaiming and asking questions about his products. Ramolefi is not selling the usual inner-city hawker stock of facecloths and socks, or "smileys" (boiled sheep heads) and "runaways" (pigs’ trotters). Instead, it is his display of innovative renewable-energy gadgets that attracts the attention of passers-by, and often turns them into converts to the green-energy cause.

His bestselling items are ethanol gel stoves and lamps, which offer a healthier, safer and more efficient fuel alternative to paraffin or coal fires.

Ethanol gel is a renewable form of energy made by mixing ethanol with a thickening agent and water. The ethanol is extracted through the fermentation and distillation of sugars from sources such as molasses, sugar cane and sweet sorghum or starch crops, like cassava or maize.

Ramolefi sells ethanol gel products and appliances for GreenHeat South Africa, which has branches in Durban, Jo’burg and Cape Town. The stoves and ethanol gel -- produced from sugar cane -- are manufactured in Durban. A two-plate stove sells for R160 (approx. $25 USD) and a lamp for R50 (around $8).

"This stove is number one," said Maria Ndlela, who works in a recycling centre in Joubert Park and has owned her stove for two months. She says it is easy to use and, while paraffin is cheaper than the gel, the gel is more cost-efficient in the long run. Five litres of gel costs about $9.70 and paraffin costs approximately $3.55 for the same amount. "Gel lasts. If you don’t use it too much, five litres of gel takes you a month to use, but five litres of paraffin lasts only three days."

Ndlela says an added attraction of ethanol is that the paraffin price fluctuates. “The price of paraffin is going up and down, up and down with the petrol price,” she said, “So now I’m forgetting about paraffin.”

“What I like about the stove is that it will conquer our unreliable electricity,” said Florah Thulare.

Safety is also a big selling point in favour of ethanol products, particularly for those who use coal or paraffin for heat and cooking. Paraffin stoves, which explode or are easily knocked over, cause fires, and poor ventilation can lead to asphyxiation.

"Coal can actually kill you during the night," says Ramolefi. "In this coming month, we know people are going to die, but there’s no campaign."

Gel fuel burns with a carbon-free flame, so it does not cause respiratory problems such as asthma, which can be caused by emissions from paraffin, coal and wood fuel. The gel also does not produce any smoke or smell.

Gel fuel will not ignite if spilt like gas or paraffin. The gel is non-toxic and thus is not poisonous if swallowed by children. The stoves are designed so they will not fall over if bumped and the stove’s legs allow it to slide when pushed instead of toppling over. Even if an ethanol lamp is overturned, the gel will extinguish the wick.

The stoves are designed for cooking, but about half of his customers buy them as heaters, said Ramolefi.

Ramolefi has sold about 70 stoves in the past eight months and hopes the market will grow and prices will consequently drop, making the stoves more affordable for the poor.


Happy Planet Index

The Happy Planet Index is a new global measure of progress, calculating the environmental cost with which countries deliver lives of different length and happiness, revealing for the first time that happiness doesn’t have to cost the Earth.

Launched today by nef (the new economics foundation), the Happy Planet Index is the first of its kind, and its results are surprising, or even shocking. The ranking puts the UK in 108th place and the USA in an even worse 150th out of 178 countries.

It is interesting note that the self-appointed “world leaders”, the G8, don’t rank very well at all. We’ve already seen how the UK and the USA fare, and Italy is 66th, Germany 81st, Japan 95th, Canada 111th, France 129th, and Russia 172nd.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Holographic Solar, A novel approach to concentrating sunlight could cut solar panel costs

The main limitation of solar power right now is cost, because the crystalline silicon used to make most solar photovoltaic (PV) cells is very expensive. One approach to overcoming this cost factor is to concentrate light from the sun using mirrors or lenses, thereby reducing the total area of silicon needed to produce a given amount of electricity. But traditional light concentrators are bulky and unattractive -- less than ideal for use on suburban rooftops.
Now Prism Solar Technologies of Stone Ridge, NY, has developed a proof-of-concept solar module that uses holograms to concentrate light, possibly cutting the cost of solar modules by as much as 75%, making them competitive with electricity generated from fossil fuels.
The new technology replaces unsightly concentrators with sleek flat panels laminated with holograms. The panels, says Rick Lewandowski, the company's president and CEO, are a "more elegant solution" to traditional concentrators, and can be installed on rooftops -- or even incorporated into windows and glass doors.
The system needs 25 to 85% less silicon than a crystalline silicon panel of comparable wattage, Lewandowski says, because the photovoltaic material need not cover the entire surface of a solar panel. Instead, the PV material is arranged in several rows. A layer of holograms -- laser-created patterns that diffract light -- directs light into a layer of glass where it continues to reflect off the inside surface of the glass until it finds its way to one of the strips of PV silicon. Reducing the PV material needed could bring down costs from about $4/watt to $1.50 for crystalline silicon panels, he says.
The company is expecting to pull in another $6 million from interested venture capitalists and start manufacturing its first-generation modules by the end of the year, selling them at about $2.40/watt. Next-generation modules with more advanced technology should bring down the cost further.
In their ability to concentrate light, holograms are not as powerful as conventional concentrators. They can multiply the amount of light falling on the cells only by as much as a factor of 10, whereas lens-based systems can increase light by a factor of 100, and some even up to 1,000.
But traditional concentrators are complicated. Since the lenses or mirrors that focus light need to face the sun directly, they have to mechanically track the sun. They also heat up the solar cells, and so require a cooling system. As a result, although they redirect light with more intensity than the hologram device, "they're unwieldy...and not as practical for residential uses," says National Renewable Energy Laboratory spokesperson George Douglas.

Holograms have advantages that make up for their relatively weak concentration power. They can select certain frequencies and focus them on solar cells that work best at those frequencies, converting the maximum possible light into electricity. They also can be made to direct heat-generating frequencies away from the cells, so the system does not need to be cooled. "In this way, you are efficiently using only that part of the sunlight that really matters," says Selim Shahriar, director of the atomic and photonic technology laboratory at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.
Also, different holograms in a concentrator module can be designed to focus light from different angles -- so they don't need moving parts to track the sun.
Prism Solar's system incorporates these advantages. Nevertheless, to be competitive with other solar technologies available today, the company might need to reduce its price below $2.40/watt, says Christo Stojanoff, professor emeritus of engineering at the Aachen University of Technology in Germany.
CEO Lewandowski says the holographic modules will cost about $1.50/watt in a few years, using their second-generation technology, which will have solar cells sandwiched between two glass panels containing holograms. At that price, they'll start to compete with fossil fuel-generated electricity, which now costs almost three times less than conventional solar electricity, according to San Francisco, CA-based research and consulting company Solarbuzz.
The modules' intensive use of glass could be adding to their cost, says Douglas. Still, such a novel idea for a concentrator, using holograms, could be a lucrative investment because it needs less silicon than flat-panel modules and therefore saves money. The high demand for solar cells in Germany and other European countries "has now outstripped the supply, which has [led to] a silicon shortage and a shortage of manufacturing in the photovoltaic world," he says.
Although the idea of holographic solar concentrators has been around since the early 1980s, no one has developed them commercially yet, according to Professor Stojanoff, who has investigated the technique extensively. His company, Holotec GmbH in Aachen, Germany, researches and manufactures holographic materials. Also, Northeast Photosciences, a Hollis, NH-based company, came close to manufacture, before it went defunct for reasons unrelated to the technology or to finance, he says.
So, if all goes according to plan, Prism Solar could be the first company to manufacture and sell holographic solar concentrator modules.

Mitsubishi Fuso Launches Cleanest Light Truck in the World

The new Fuso hybrid electric commercial truck combines a small, clean-burning diesel engine, an ultra-slim electric motor/generator and advanced lithium-ion batteries in a drive train that also includes a high-efficiency automated mechanical transmission. The result is a medium-duty truck that achieves up to 30% better fuel economy in delivery applications and also produces significantly less emissions than its standard diesel-only model.

Logan Township, NJ — In the continuing quest for vehicles that provide improved fuel economy and lower emissions, while still providing rugged reliability for day-to-day work, Mitsubishi Fuso has developed a unique hybrid electric vehicle (HEV).

The new Mitsubishi Fuso Canter Eco Hybrid features a parallel hybrid system, that incorporates the company’s latest advancements to deliver ecologically responsible, economical performance. The Canter Eco Hybrid couples a conventional internal combustion engine with an electric motor/generator in an effort to improve overall vehicle efficiency.

While the hybrid layout is a new development, the individual components in it are all proven designs. The small, efficient, 123 hp turbocharged diesel engine is the same one utilized in conventional medium-duty truck service in Japan for several years. This proven diesel is coupled to an ultraslim 47 hp brushless permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor/generator. It, too, has been field-proven in a number of applications. And, finally, power from both the diesel and electric drives is carried through a Mitsubishi Fuso Inomat II automated mechanical transmission similar to the ones that have been used in Fuso Class 8 trucks for a decade. Together, these proven components form the drivetrain of the Canter Eco Hybrid.

The hybrid system switches its operational mode according to the driving situation. The electric motor is used to drive the vehicle when starting off. During hard acceleration, both the diesel engine and electric motor/generator power the vehicle. When cruising, the vehicle is driven by the diesel engine only, like a conventional vehicle. When slowing down or braking, the electric motor/generator functions as a generator to brake the vehicle. The generator converts brake energy into electric energy and stores it in the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery for the next moving off or acceleration.

Contrast that with a conventional truck. Stopping it requires a braking system that will convert the truck’s kinetic energy (its forward motion) into heat energy that is ultimately dissipated into the air via the brake pads and disks. All of that heat energy is wasted. The next time the truck accelerates, it has to burn more fuel to do it.

In the Fuso Eco-Hybrid, every time the driver lifts his or her foot off the accelerator, the diesel engine is taken offline (that is, the clutch is disengaged), and an inverter automatically switches the electric motor/generator into generator mode, feeding electrical power to the batteries. With this scenario, instead of converting the kinetic energy of the truck into waste heat, it’s converted into electrical energy that’s stored onboard, and then re-used by the electric drive motor.

It’s this regenerative braking, as it’s known, that is at the heart of the HEV’s efficiency. It’s the equivalent of pouring some diesel fuel back into the tank of a conventional truck every time it slows or stops.

“The Mitsubishi Fuso Canter Eco Hybrid demonstrates the potential for combining environmental performance and efficiency in an alternative drive vehicle,” said Bob McDowell, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America (MFTA). “This vehicle shows the technological capabilities and environmental dedication associated with the Fuso brand.”
The Mitsubishi Fuso Eco Hybrid will be introduced to the Japanese commercial truck market later this year. The prototype is in the U.S. to help the company gauge interest by potential U.S. customers, so that it can evaluate potential demand in North America. The truck is being shown at the National Work Truck Show in Atlanta, GA, and at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY, both in March 2006.


Solar-powered boat offers London lake cruise

A shuttle boat powered entirely by the sun is to be launched on the Serpentine lake in London's Hyde Park. Beginning Saturday, operators will offer one-way tickets for the half-mile cruise at $2.75, per child and $5.50 for adults.

"This is the most technologically advanced shuttle in the world right now," said designer Christoph Behling, who also designed the world's largest solar boat in Hamburg, Germany.
"It is made of entirely stainless steel which means it never gets old. It will pave the way for future boats and trains and other means of transportation," Behling said.
The 48-foot-long shuttle has 27 solar panels on its roof, and the energy generated by the sun is enough to keep the boat running. Its maximum journey distance is 82 miles. Cruising at 4mph, the boat - driven by two electric engines - is silent and pollution-free, say the makers.

The Solarshuttle's launch comes amid a heatwave which has driven temperatures in London up to 32.7C (90.9F). When not in use and docked, any surplus electricity generated by the boat's solar panels will be fed back into the National Grid, they say.

Designer Christoph Behling was also behind one of the world's largest solar boats, the Hamburg Solarshuttle, which now ferries passengers across the city's harbour. His latest design will ferry park visitors every half-hour between the boat house on the north side of the Serpentine and the jetty in the south, near the Princess of Wales memorial fountain.

learn more on Solarlab

Ecospace Green Prefab Garden Studios

This building form was really developed in England, where people have been building gorgeous and elaborate garden sheds for years. Ecospace builds lovely modern ones, in collaboration with architects Idris-Perrineau Town.

They are available in modular or "bespoke", built from sustainable timber and sit on an adjustable bearing shoe that minimizes site disturbance. We also like the green roof: "A planted green roof system is used which was developed in Germany over 25 years ago. The green roof is ecologically sound and aesthetically reduces visual impact of the studio. It is a low maintenance roof with plants well suited to cope with a full range of conditions. Species include mosses, succulents, herbaceous plants and grasses. The Bauder green roof has a high insulation performance."

Flooring is pvc-free, recyclable Dalsouple rubber. Options include kitchens, bathrooms and radiant flooring.Prices start at 15,850 pounds for a 3.6 metre by 3 metre studio.

This stylish little prefab is green in almost every way: it is constructed from sustainably harvested cedar, employs eco-friendly materials throughout the structure and interior, and even comes outfitted with a pre-built green roof!

More on Ecospace...

Funky recycled fairtrade bags

Bags made out of recycled materials have been around for quite some time - but on the whole they’ve been a pretty frumpy bunch. That’s why we are so excited to discover Trash Bags - an Australian company providing eco-inspiration to show that you can make hip, recycled (and fair-trade!) handbags out of many different kinds of refuse — including plastic grocery sacks, newspapers, and telephone directories, as well as the old-time favorite: juice-containers.

Trash Bags offers a collection of fairly-traded bags and homewares made from recycled materials by artisans in disadvantaged communities. By creating fair-trade partnerships with non-profit economic and community development organizations in the Asian Pacific region, Trash Bags is able to bring a product to market that is helping to secure a better future for the craftspeople, their children, and our shared environment. Not only that, their transparent business practices include published bi-annual sustainability audits, the first of which will be available this month, according to their website.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mercedes to launch hybrid car in 2008

DaimlerChrysler has announced plans to launch a gasoline-electric hybrid for the 2008 model year. According to DaimlerChrysler Board Member Dr. Thomas Weber, the company will commercialize an S-class mild hybrid; further mild-hybrid models are in development for subsequent years. Mild hybrid engines, like the one in use in Honda's Accord hybrid, provide electric-powered assistance to the gasoline engine; full hybrids, like Toyota's Prius, alternate between their gasoline or electric motors depending on driving conditions.

Soaring fuel prices have led to a rise in sales of hybrid vehicles, which use a combination of petrol and electric propulsion which cuts consumption and emissions. Japanese automakers have stolen a march on competitors, launching several hybrid cars, most notably Toyota with its Prius.

A hybrid Mercedes S Class was presented at the recent Frankfurt car show, and the firm has previously said that it would be launched in the US and Japanese markets.

Looolo textiles: eco-friendly fashion

It seems that environmental awareness is in fashion these days. Literally.

From EDUN, the recently launched fair-trade-produced hemp and organic cotton clothing line that is the brainchild of U2's Bono, his wife Ali Hewson and designer Rogan Gregory, to the organic cotton Sustainable Edition tees and undies from American Apparel, to the colorful striped organic skirts and dresses by designer Aimee Grubel, to the sustainable - yet - stylish shoes of Terra Plana to the eco-friendly knits by Canadian company LoooLo Textiles, it seems that designers are putting their money - and fabric - where their mouths are when it comes to the environment.

For LoooLo Textiles designer Joanna Notkin, her light bulb moment came while working as a jewelry designer for large fashion companies like Aldo Shoes and Esprit in the late 1990s.

"I [was making] flowery, very colorful stuff and it was flying off the shelves," said the Toronto-based Notkin.

"But I realized that within a year or two or three, all this sort of lower-end, inexpensive costume jewelry I was designing might have some part that broke off or the thing would have gone out of style, and it would end up in some landfill somewhere.

That weighed really heavily on me as a designer, so I thought, I have to make a choice here: Either not be a designer or find a different way

Friday, July 14, 2006

A new Beacon for London's energy needs

A group of London designers, architects and engineers have today unveiled The Beacon, a visionary new form of urban energy generation.

Their intention is to site The Beacon at some of the capital’s most prominent locations, and have unveiled images today of a potential installation right at the heart of the City, near Tower Bridge - one of London’s great design icons of old – and right in front of London’s centre of political power, City Hall.

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone has recently set a target for 20% of London’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2010, and it is now Greater London Authority policy that large new projects incorporate 10% renewable energy generation as part of the building itself.

Designed in response to this challenge, The Beacon is a new form of urban wind generation.

“Wind energy is one of the best forms of renewables around. But most wind turbines are being planned in remote locations without any existing infrastructure. This isn’t efficient as 30% to 50% of energy gets lost through transmission. We believe cities like London should take much greater responsibility for their own energy generation. London has a unique opportunity to make a difference in time for the Olympics” said David Marks and Julia Barfield, architects of the London Eye and co-designers of the Beacon.

Their partner in the project, Robert Webb, CEO of low-carbon engineers XCO2 and co-designer of The Beacon adds; “Within fifty years we will be living in a world which is 90% powered by renewable energy, with no sacrifice to quality of life. The Beacon is a showcase and a celebration of this revolution and is designed to bring the debate on wind generation directly into the cities. ”

The Beacon is a 40 metre high Y-shaped structure, and is designed to be ‘planted’ along major roads and public spaces, reaching up to the stronger breezes above London’s buildings, while the top of it rotates into the wind direction. Each Beacon supports five vertical ‘triple-helix’ wind turbines called quietrevolution, each five metres high and three metres diameter – itself the first new product from Quiet Revolution Ltd, a sister company of XCO2 - designed to achieve ultra-quiet operation and more efficient utilisation of urban winds.

In an additional twist, the quietrevolution wind turbines can become suspended video screens or colour-change lighting displays, thanks to LEDs integrated within the blades. Its designers hope that it will be used a few times in the year for celebrating important events – like the Queen’s birthday, the Wimbledon final – or hopefully, one day, England winning the football World Cup.

More about Quietrevolution wind turbines

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel can significantly reduce global dependence on oil, according to a new report by the Worldwatch Institute, released in collaboration with the German Agencies for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and Renewable Resources (FNR).

For more on the report, view selected trends and facts , register (free) or log in to our site to download PDF files of the short and extended summaries, view a transcript from the morning session of the conference, and view the conference schedule with PDF versions of the presentations. The full report will be available later in the year.

Last year, world biofuel production surpassed 670,000 barrels per day, the equivalent of about 1 percent of the global transport fuel market. Although oil still accounts for more than 96 percent of transport fuel use, biofuel production has doubled since 2001 and is poised for even stronger growth as the industry responds to higher fuel prices and supportive government policies. “Coordinated action to expand biofuel markets and advance new technologies could relieve pressure on oil prices while strengthening agricultural economies and reducing climate-altering emissions,” says Worldwatch Institute President Christopher Flavin.

The new report, Biofuels for Transportation: Global Potential and Implications for Sustainable Agriculture and Energy in the 21st Century , sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV), is a comprehensive assessment of the opportunities and risks associated with the large-scale international development of biofuels. It includes information from existing country studies on biofuel use in Brazil, China, Germany, India, and Tanzania.

Brazil is the world’s biofuel leader, with half of its sugar cane crop providing more than 40 percent of its non-diesel transport fuel. In the United States, where 15 percent of the corn crop provides about 2 percent of the non-diesel transport fuel, ethanol production is growing even more rapidly. This surging growth may allow the U.S. to overtake Brazil as the world’s biofuel leader this year. Both countries are now estimated to be producing ethanol at less than the current cost of gasoline.

Figures cited in the report reveal that biofuels could provide 37 percent of U.S. transport fuel within the next 25 years, and up to 75 percent if automobile fuel economy doubles. Biofuels could replace 20–30 percent of the oil used in European Union countries during the same time frame.

As the first-ever global assessment of the potential social and environmental impacts of biofuels, Biofuels for Transportation warns that the large-scale use of biofuels carries significant agricultural and ecological risks. “It is essential that government incentives be used to minimize competition between food and fuel crops and to discourage expansion onto ecologically valuable lands,” says Worldwatch Biofuels Project Manager Suzanne Hunt. However, the report also finds that biofuels have the potential to increase energy security, create new economic opportunities in rural areas, and reduce local pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases.

The long-term potential of biofuels is in the use of non-food feedstock that include agricultural, municipal, and forestry wastes as well as fast-growing, cellulose-rich energy crops such as switchgrass. It is expected that the combination of cellulosic biomass resources and “next-generation” biofuel conversion technologies—including ethanol production using enzymes and synthetic diesel production via gasification/Fischer-Tropsch synthesis—will compete with conventional gasoline and diesel fuel without subsidies in the medium term.

The report recommends policies to accelerate the development of biofuels, while maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risks. Recommendations include:
  • Strengthen the Market. Biofuel policies should focus on market development, based on sound fiscal incentives and support for private investment, infrastructure development, and the building of transportation fleets that are able to use the new fuels.
  • Speed the Transition to Next-Generation Technologies. It is critical to expedite the transition to the next generation of biofuel feedstock and technologies, which will allow for dramatically increased production at lower cost, while minimizing environmental impacts.
  • Protect the Resource Base. Maintaining soil productivity, water quality, and myriad other ecosystem services is essential. National and international environmental sustainability principles and certification systems are important for protecting resources as well as maintaining public trust in the merits of biofuels.
  • Facilitate Sustainable International Biofuel Trade. Continued rapid growth of biofuels will require the development of a true international market in these fuels, unimpeded by the trade restrictions in place today. Freer movement of biofuels around the world should be coupled with social and environmental standards and a credible system to certify compliance.
The report’s findings were discussed today at a conference on Capitol Hill hosted by Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin and GTZ Director General Peter Conze. Participants included policymakers and representatives of the private sector, governments, international agencies, and nongovernmental organizations.

Speakers at the opening session included World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz; Thomas Dorr, Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and German Ambassador to the United States, Klaus Scharioth. Other conference speakers include R. James Woolsey, Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton and former Director of Central Intelligence; John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress; and representatives from DaimlerChrysler AG, Iogen Corporation, and CHOREN Industries, as well as Suzanne Hunt and other contributors to the biofuels report.